Patrick Montgomery learned a lot during his four years stationed at Georgia military bases. Perhaps the most important lesson was believing in his own abilities.
“You think you have all of these limitations as a person, but when you’re put in challenging situations, you figure out that those are made up in your head,” said Montgomery, now 28 and the founder and owner of KC Cattle Co. “You learn you’re capable of a lot more than you think.”
When Montgomery finished his service in the 1st Ranger Battalion in 2014, he went back to school at the University of Missouri, then started a business in his home state on Aug. 1, 2016. KC Cattle Co. serves hormone-free Wagyu beef, a Japanese cattle breed. The cows are raised in a “stress-free” environment with no antibiotics, leading to what Montgomery describes as a delicious buttery taste thanks to fats that melt at a low temperature relative to most breeds.
The company employs only veterans, two full time, five part time and a few interns at the moment, with a portion of profits going toward veteran-supporting charities.
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Montgomery is a Missouri native, though he didn’t grow up around cattle as a child. A defining moment in his life, as it was for millions of others, came on Sept. 11, 2001. He was just a middle schooler at the time but wasted no time letting his family know he wanted to get involved if a war was still raging when he turned 18.
That ended up being the case, of course, and after his first two years of college, Montgomery joined the U.S. Army and began his service at Fort Benning near Columbus.
“I spent more time than I’d have preferred there,” Montgomery said with a laugh, referring to his time in basic training.
He was then stationed at Savannah’s Hunter Army Airfield before a second stint at Fort Benning for Ranger school. Lastly, he spent time in Dahlonega, which Montgomery describes as one of the most beautiful parts of the state. In total, he lived in Georgia from 2010 to 2014 and said the experience had a profound impact on his development.
“Georgia will always have a special place in my heart,” he said. “I joined the military at age 20, and I definitely attribute the things I carry over now to the leadership skills I picked up then.”
Following four years in the Army and two deployments to Afghanistan, it was time to move home and finish college. Montgomery pursued a degree in animal science and initially planned to become a veterinarian. Instead, he realized he preferred large animals to small pets, caught the business bug (in part thanks to a minor in entrepreneurship) and decided to launch a food production company.
“I fell in love with business,” he said. “It was a great pairing between animals and entrepreneurship, and I realized that nobody was doing this in Kansas City yet. As far as bringing in veterans, I got a lot of benefit from serving in the Army, so why wouldn’t I bring in other veterans to experience the same thing?”
Key to that second aspect is helping vets with the often-difficult transition from military to civilian life. Leaving the regimented life of the Army for the free-for-all civilian world can be tough for veterans, and even Montgomery said he found the experience harder than he expected.
“I count my blessings that I had my wife to keep me on track,” he said. “Most of us in the Army are goal-oriented, and it can be tough to find that in civilian life. A lot of guys get out and plan to go to school, but they don’t have a major or a career path. They struggle when they lack a game plan for getting out of the military.”
So he’s teamed with organizations to help find veterans to work on his farm. Montgomery aims to help veterans take that next step in life. He has partnered with a group called War Horses for Veterans, which performs equine therapy, and plans to set up a business incubator for veterans in 2019.
Montgomery provides not only financial help, but beef and the use of his land to War Horses for Veterans, a Kansas City-area organization founded by fellow Army combat veteran Patrick Benson.
Montgomery and Benson met through mutual friends in the Kansas City area.
“Doing business in the civilian world is not as structured as the military, so you have to develop that structure yourself,” said Benson, who served in the Army infantry during the Iraq invasion in 2003. “It’s a lot easier with a good team around you and people you enjoy doing it with.”
At no cost, Benson’s group flies in military veterans for three days of open skies, good food and camaraderie, helping connect them with one another and, in some cases, with potential employers afterward. Many are dealing with battle fatigue or post-traumatic stress disorder, and War Horses aims to get them into the right mindset for the transition.
“I don’t care what your rank is, or whether it’s for personal or professional growth,” Benson said. “The horses are the bridge, and the veterans are their own best therapy.”
Montgomery’s farm spans 297 acres, with between 60 to 100 cows on-site at any given time. While traditional beef breeds are harvested around 18 months of age, his are processed at between 26 and 30 months, due to a slower feeding process that does not use hormones.
While the business serves delicious beef to customers, it serves a lot more than that to its employees.
“War Horses for Veterans is a unique partnership for us to step into, not only because of the agriculture ties but because we have the same beliefs about getting vets back on their feet,” said Montgomery. “It’s not about giving a handout, but giving them tools to use in the workforce. That includes networking, hooking them up with people who can be mentors for them in whatever type of job they are looking for.”